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Grand Duke Konstantin's sons - owners of Strelna

In 1797 Paul I presented the farmstead Strelna with 149 serfs and all the villages assigned to it to his second son, Grand Duke Konstantin (1779-1831), named so by Catherine the Great as the future Emperor of the Constantinople Empire. The tutor of Konstantin was a Greek named Kuruta, later a duke and the Steward of the Household. He became Grand Duke Konstantin's lifelong friend. In 1796 the Grand Duke married Princess Juliana of Coburg, who was given the Russian name of Anna Feodorovna after their marriage. The marriage, however, was not happy, and in 1801 Anna Feodorovna left Russia. In 1798 the Grand Duke was appointed Inspector-General of the Cavalry. For his participation in Suvorov's famous Italian and Swiss campaigns an honorary title of tsesarevich was bestowed upon him.

In the summer of 1800, on deciding to make improvements in his Strelna residence, Konstantin Pavlovich moved to the wooden Palace of Peter the Great. He had the Flower Garden and the Aviary reconstructed and the English Garden laid out, to the south of the stone palace, in a landscape style according to a design by A. Hall.

The architect Andrei Voronikhin reconstructed the stone palace in 1802-03 and Luigi Rusca restored it in 1804, after a fire.

The grand duke used the restored palace to accommodate the headquarters, arsenal, hospital, guardhouse and stables of the Uhlan regiment.

Not far from the Aviary he held military reviews, manoeuvres and parades. In 1807 the French woman Josephine Frederix lived in the Strelna Palace together with Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich and in 1808 a son, Pavel Alexandrov, was born to them. The illegal son would be granted the rank of gentleman four years later.

When Konstantin Pavlovich was allowed to divorce Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna, he married a Polish noblewoman, Jeannette Grudzinska, who received the title of Princess Lowiczch.

After 1814 Konstantin Pavlovich became the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army permanently residing in Warsaw.

Having learned about the death of Emperor Alexander I on 26 November 1825, Grand Duke Konstantin, the heir apparent, sent official letters to his brother Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich and Empress Maria Feodorovna, his mother, that he resigned from the throne. In November 1830 a revolt aimed at the independence of Poland broke out in Warsaw. In June 1831, escaping from rebels who attacked his suburban palace Belvedere, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich arrived in Vitebsk where he died of cholera.

After his death the Strelna estate was in the possession of Grand Duke Konstatin Nikolayevich (1827-1892), Nicholas I's second son, who since childhood was being prepared by his father for a naval career. At sixteen he was promoted to the rank of captain, and at twenty-six he became an admiral. The tutor of the grand duke was the famous traveller Fiodor Litke, who succeeded in instilling a love for seafaring to him. Before he reached his majority, Strelna had been under the jurisdiction of the Department of Crown Domains, and in summertime various regiments quartered there, including the Mounted Regiment of Life-Guards commanded since 1844 by Piotr Lanskoi. In 1844 Lanskoi's marriage with Natalie Goncharova, the widow of the great poet Alexander Pushkin, took place in the Church of the Transfiguration at Strelna. Pushkin's sons Alexander and Grigory lived at Strelna and served in the regiment of their father-in-law. Alexandra, Lanskoi's daughter born a year after the wedding, was baptized in the same church at Strelna, in the presence of Emperor Nicholas I, who wished to be her godfather.

In 1848 the grand duke obtained possession of all rights for Strelna. He received the estate as a present for his marriage to Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna, nee Princess of Saxe-Altenburg. By the arrival of the young couple a restoration and redesigning of the grottoes in the Lower Park, the building of the Stable and a reconstruction of the stone palace, which became known as the "Konstantin Palace" had been completed according to designs by Christoph Philip Meyer and Andrei Stackensneider.

The marriage proved to be happy - Grand Duchess Alexandra losifovna gave birth to four sons and two daughters. A versatile personality, the grand duke had a good command of European languages, he liked to read, had an interest in the achievements of science, the theatre, literature and music; he played various instruments and was known as a clever, well educated and extremely energetic man with his own opinion. The grand duke's remarkable personality has laid its imprint on the Strelna ensemble which was in his possession for 43 years.

In 1853 the grand duke was put at the head of the Naval Ministry where he made a series of positive changes and reforms. He took an active part in the preparation of the reform on the abolition of serfdom and in 1865 became the Chairman of the State Council. In 1881, after the assassination of Emperor Alexander II, Konstanrin Nikolayevich resigned from all the posts retaining only the honourary title of General-Admiral. He died in 1892, in Pavlovsk. After the death of Konstantin Nikolayevich, from 1892 to 1911, the estate was owned by Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna.

The last owner of Strelna was Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich (1860-1919), the junior son of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich. He was born in 1860 in the Konstantin Palace and baptized in the church of the Great Peterhof Palace. Dmitry Konstantinovich occupied the rooms on the ground floor of the west wing, which earlier had belonged to his father, Konstantin Nikolayevich. In 1892 he was appointed the commander of a regiment of mounted grenadiers and remained on this post until 1917 rising to the rank of colonel. According to the evidence of people who knew him well, he was a clever, well educated and deeply religious man and a brilliant interlocutor. Dmitry Konstantinovich is also known for his charity activities. Under his august patronage were the society Brotherhood for One's Neighbour, a surgery, a hospital and a fire brigade founded at Strelna in 1861 by Prince Alexei Lvov, great-grandson of Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich. After the revolution of 1917 the grand duke was arrested and shot in the Peter and Paul Fortress in 1919. His burial place is unknown.

The life and creative work of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915), the second son of Konstantin Nikolayevich, was closely linked with Strelna where he was born and spent his childhood and youth. Wherever his destiny brought him, he always remembered his native land and carried with himself a metal box with the earth taken at Strelna. The grand duke also owned Pavlovsk and he loved it, too, but in Strelna, at a distance from the royal court, he could breathe more freely, as he confessed. He was an eminent poet (he signed his works by the initials, K. R., standing for "Konstantin Romanov") and Strelna inspired him - he created more than twenty lyrical poems there. One of them, written in 1883, was devoted to Princess Elizabeth Saxe-Altenburg, her future wife. Their marriage was happy - Yelizaveta Mavrikiyevna gave birth to nine children, six sons and three daughters (one of them, Natalia, died in infancy). The grand prince was an affectionate father, husband and brother. He had especially warm relations with his son Oleg who inherited the grand duke's poetic gift, and with his sister Olga Konstantinovna, the queen of the Greeks - he devoted to her many poems some of which were written at Strelna. Konstantin Konstantinovich was a versatile personality - a talented poet, playwright, actor, composer, musician and a brilliant translator. He became famous for his translations of works by Shakespeare, Byron, Goethe and Schiller, for his lofty drama Rex ludaeorum devoted to the last events in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. About 70 of the grand duke's poems were set to music by the composers Glazunov, Tchaikovsky, Gliere and others. The grand duke combined his literary activities with a state service. In 1900 he was appointed the chief inspector of the military educational establishments of Russia. As president of the Academy of Sciences he did much for the development of Russian science. A grave illness and death in 1915 prevented the Grand Duke from fulfilling his creative plans. News about the death of his beloved son Oleg and his son-in-law Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky at the fronts of World War I accelerated his premature demise.

Osip Kiselev.
Portrait of Grand Duke
Konstantin Pavlovich.
Engraving. 1825.

Jannette Grudzinska,
Princess of Lowiczch.

Grand Duke
Konstantin Nikolayevich.
Photograph. 1870s.

Grand Duchess
Alexandra Iosifovna
with her son Nikolai
and daughter Olga.
Photograph. 1860s.

Grand Duke
Dmitry Konstantinovich.
Photograph. 1890s.

Grand Duke
Konstantin Konstantinovich as Hamlet.
Photograph. 1870s.
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